U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced a new "parental interest" directive Thursday for migrants arrested or detained for crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.
ICE Directive 11064.3, titled "Parental Interest of Noncitizens Parents and Legal Guardians of Minor Children or Incapacitated Adults," ensures that when a parent or legal guardian is arrested or detained for a civil immigration proceeding "that the noncitizen can maintain visitation with their child or incapacitated adult for whom they serve as guardian, coordinate their care, and participate in any related court or child welfare proceedings," according to a press release published Thursday.
The policy goes into effect immediately and full implementation will be complete in the next several months. Among the changes listed is that ICE is now required to allow illegal immigrants deported through parole to return to the U.S. for hearing where they might lose parental rights of their kids.
"In the course of their duties, our officers and special agents will preserve family unity and the parental rights of noncitizen parents and legal guardians to the greatest extent possible," ICE Acting Director Tae D. Johnson said in a statement. "ICE will ensure that our civil immigration enforcement activities do not unnecessarily disrupt or infringe upon the parental or guardianship rights of noncitizen parents or legal guardians of minor children or incapacitated adults."
The Senate has not confirmed a permanent ICE director under the Biden administration.
Last month, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who serves Texas’ largest country, withdrew from consideration. Former President Donald Trump has been long criticized by Democrats for his "zero tolerance" immigration policy that allowed for every adult migrant to be separated from children who accompanied them while entering the U.S. without authorization.
Thursday’s directive says the federal immigration agency is now requiring that ICE directorates have procedures in place to identify individuals who are parents or legal guardians of minor children or incapacitated adults, "including by affirmatively inquiring about such status when a noncitizen is encountered."
The second change calls for establishing enhanced procedures and requirements regarding "the initial placement and subsequent transfer of parents and legal guardians, including provisions to ensure access to family visitation and child welfare services and programs."
On a case-by-case basis, ICE will start allowing "for the return of a previously removed noncitizen via parole in instances where the noncitizen’s in-person participation at a hearing or hearings related to the termination of their parental rights or guardianship is required," the press release said.
ICE said new training will be developed for relevant personnel on "safeguarding the parental or guardianship rights of noncitizens they encounter while executing their duties."
"While the prior version of this policy applied to parents and legal guardians of minor children, the current policy also applies to the parents and legal guardians of incapacitated adults," ICE said.